ASPA recycling program on hold looking for site, partner
Executive Director of the American Samoa Power Authority (ASPA) Utu Abe Malae says there is no progress to report for the popular recycling program, as there is no land available nor private company to partner with ASPA on the project. The program is currently on hold — not discontinued.
Earlier this year, Utu told Samoa News they were working with the Department of Commerce to secure a piece of land at the Tafuna Industrial Park that would be “more conducive to staging the recycling process and handling traffic queues.”
But in an email to Samoa News yesterday, Utu said that not only is the land at the Tafuna Industrial Park unavailable, so far, no private recycling company has shown interest or has the capability to partner with ASPA for the project. “Maybe there is one out there, but it is not evident so far,” Utu wrote.
Samoa News spoke to many local residents who have continued to gather recyclables in hopes of delivering them to ASPA in return for credit on their utility bills, as was the practice when the recycling program was in full swing last summer, when it was called the Recycling For Food Initiative.
When the program was up and running, it caused a lot of traffic congestion near the ASPA compound in Tafuna, with people waiting for hours to get their recyclables turned in and weighed. But the long lines, according to the program participants, were all worth it, as they were able to receive coupons, based on the amount of recyclables they turned in that could be used to pay down their utility bills.
The program was later halted as ASPA had to work on sorting out the items and shipping them off to their vendor in New Zealand.
When asked if the program will be reinstated, Utu replied: ”Depends on when we find a private recycler to team up with.”
According to Utu, ASPA has already shipped off everything they collected when the program started and when it is reinstated, they plan to have more drop-off locations in addition to ASPA’s Tafuna office.
Furthermore, the program will operate in the same manner it did before, (i.e. turn in your recyclables and get credit on your utility bill) but “there will be more stringent conditions on the kinds and quality of the recyclable material.”
In an initial interview, Utu told Samoa News that ASPA continues to review the program and look at “how to make it better,” and in addition to the site location, other issues that need to be addressed include the weighing of recyclables, (ferrous or non-ferrous metals, plastics, tires, glass) which was generally inaccurate and inconsistent. According to Utu, there was a tendency to under-weigh the materials.
Earlier this year, Utu said that as a business venture, the recycling program operation resulted in a loss of $868,000 for ASPA but in the long run, “We aim to break even.”
Utu noted in an initial interview, “We can afford the program to operate with a small loss because there are benefits of extending the life of the sanitary landfill, and cleaning up and protecting the environment, including marine life.”
He continued, “Although the benefits to ASPA are not direct, the community has benefited from a cleaner environment… and as the tourism industry picks up in the territory, and more cruise ship passengers come ashore, a litter-free island becomes critical, as visitors generally don't care for rubbish all over the place.”